POSC 349/449 —Political Science Research Methods

Section 11078

Fall 2004


Instructor:  Michael Craw


Office Hours: TW 9-11 and by appointment


Department Phone: 

Cell Phone: (812) 325-6042

Class Times: MWF 3:00 – 3:50

Room: Clark 110

E-mail: michael.craw@case.edu



Course Description


This course is about how political scientists do research, that is, how political scientists design and execute projects that tell us more about how groups of people make decisions and govern themselves.  My purpose in this class is to teach you how to carry out research projects of your own, so that you may contribute useful and verifiable new ideas to the political science discipline. I will start by saying that research is a very messy process, no matter how neatly it is laid out in the textbook.  To do good research, you will need to have some “textbook” knowledge about the principles of scientific inference, and about the typical ways political scientists accumulate and use data to make such inferences.  But you will also need to acquire habits and skills that productive researchers possess, particularly the habit of writing frequently.  In this class, we will work in both veins, so that you have both the theoretical and practical knowledge to complete papers and research projects that contribute new insights into political events.




The easiest way to get in touch with me is by e-mail (michael.craw@case.edu).  In addition, I will from time to time use e-mail to communicate information about the class (e.g. cancellations or changes in the reading assignments and class discussion topics).  If you do not have a Case e-mail account, please see me as soon as possible.  You may reach me at my home number above during reasonable hours (before 11 p.m.).  Or you may see me during my office hours or by making an appointment to see me.

Course Requirements and Grading


I will evaluate student performance in this class according to the following components:


Participation                            10%

Writing notebook:                    15%

Mid-term Exam:                       20%

Final Exam:                              20%

Analysis Paper                         10%

Research Design:                      25%


Participation:  One of the primary objectives of this class is to develop your ability to critically analyze political and public policy issues.  This is best done by actively engaging in discussion of policy issues with others who are well informed about an issue and who can bring different experiences to the discussion.  Class participation, therefore, will be a factor in your final grade.  Students are expected to come to class prepared for discussion by having studied the assigned reading in advance.  From time to time we may carry out in-class exercises and I will use the number of these exercises that I receive from you to help me assess the participation and attendance component of your grade.


Writing notebook:  Writing is an essential activity at every stage of the research process. Becoming a good researcher, then, means developing a habit of writing every day, even if it is as little as 15 minutes a day. Consequently, I would like you to keep a writing notebook during this class, in which you write for at least 15 minutes a day. You can do this writing longhand in an actual notebook, or you can keep it in a computer file, whichever format you feel more comfortable with. The writing you do can be of any type:  it can be freewriting on a political science topic, or it can be directed towards a class assignment, such as a first stab at drafting a research question or literature review or your thoughts and reactions to one of the course reading assignments.  It will be most beneficial for you if your writing concern itself with politics and political science.  I will collect your notebooks three times during the semester, and you will receive credit based on the number of days since the last check that you wrote in the notebook. To receive full credit, you should write six days out of the week for at least 15 minutes.  I will not be grading you on the quality or content of your writing, but rather on whether you have been writing every day.


Exams:  There will be two exams in this class, a mid-term and a final, each worth 25% of your final grade.  The mid-term exam will be on Friday, October 15, and will cover material on the syllabus through October 8. The mid-term exam will have an in-class component of multiple choice questions and identification questions.  During the exam, you will also receive an essay question, to be completed by you out of class and returned to me within 24 hours. I will provide you with more details on the format of the exam in class.


The final exam will be on Wednesday, December 15, from 12:30 -3:30 p.m.  This exam will be a comprehensive exam, and will be done entirely in class. Similar to the mid-term exam, it will consist of multiple choice, identification and essay questions.


As a rule, I do not allow people to take make-up exams except under exceptional circumstances or in cases of medical or personal emergencies.  If you must miss an exam, I require at least one week’s notice to schedule a make-up exam. Missing an exam without sufficient advance notice or a verifiable medical excuse (e.g. a doctor’s note) will result in a zero on the exam. 


Research design:  You will complete a research design addressing a substantive research question in political science. You will complete this design in two parts. In the first part, you will write a 2-3 page research proposal, in which you discuss a research question and why it is significant. You will bring a draft of your proposal to class on Friday, September 17, for an in-class critique.  You will then have a week to complete your proposal, due on Friday, Septmeber 24 at 5:00 p.m. During the week of September 27th, you will have a brief meeting with me to discuss your proposal.  Your proposal will constitute 20% of your research design grade, or 5% of your total course grade.


Once you have discussed your proposal with me, you will complete a research design for testing alternative theories underlying your question.  Your research design will consist of your research question and its significance; a review of the literature that discusses the alternative ways in which your question has already been addressed; a theory section that discusses the argument that you make, or what you propose to contribute to the debate that is new; hypotheses, or implications of your theory that are testable; and a plan for testing your theory, outlining your dependent, independent and control variables, proposed measures for your variables, a plan for gathering data (including a proposed survey instrument, if appropriate), a plan for data analysis, and threats to internal and external validity that are associated with your design.  You will turn in a draft of your design in class (bring two copies) on November 15 for critique by another student in the class.  This draft will not be graded, but you will receive the critique back in class on November 22, and will then have the opportunity to improve your design.  Your final draft must be turned in to me by December 3 at 5:00 p.m. for grading.


Analysis paper:  Your analysis paper will consist of a 3-5 page critique you write of another student’s research design draft. You will exchange drafts with another student in class on November 15, and turn in your analysis of the proposed design to me on November 22, when you will also discuss the draft with the author (be sure you bring two copies, one for me and one for the author). Your critique should address the strengths and weaknesses of all parts of the design: the research question, the literature review, the theory, the hypotheses, and the proposed plan for gathering data and testing the hypotheses. You should be sure to discuss threats to internal and external validity associated with the design.


POSC 449


Students enrolled in POSC 449 for graduate credit will complete the same requirements as POSC 349 students, but must complete additional requirements. POSC 449 students will not be evaluated on participation per se, but are expected to attend and participate in class sessions regularly. POSC 449 students will receive additional and more advanced reading assignments, and will complete a weekly memo summarizing and reacting to the reading assignments (more below). They will also complete the writing notebook assignment.  The mid-term and final exams for POSC 449 will contain additional items covering topics covered in the POSC 449 reading assignments. POSC 449 students will complete the research design and analysis paper on the schedule described above, but their work will be held to a higher standard.


Weekly memos:  POSC 449 students will submit a 2-3 page memo each Wednesday discussing both the POSC 349 and 449 reading assignments. The memos should not merely summarize the readings, but rather react to the readings and illuminate points of interest to the author. Your memos should be e-mailed to the other students in POSC 449, and online discussion and reaction to these memos is encouraged.  I would like, if possible, to meet at least biweekly, either at my office or at a local coffeeshop, to discuss the reading assignments.  Alternatively, I can arrange for an online format by which we could discuss the readings. We will meet during the first week of class to discuss these options.


I will evaluate POSC 449 student performance according to the following components:


Writing notebook:                     10%

Weekly memos:                        15%

Mid-term Exam:                       20%

Final Exam:                               20%

Analysis Paper              10%

Research Design:                      25%


POSC 449 reading assignments (in addition to those described for POSC 349):


Week of August 30:  Coleman, James. 1990. Foundations of Social Theory, Chapter 1


Week of September 6: Shively, W. Phillips ed. 1984. The Research Process in Political Science, Editor’s Introduction, Chapter 1A (Sullivan et al., “The Sources of Political Tolerance: A Multivariate Analysis), Chapter 1B (Sullivan, John L., “On Students and Serendipity in Social Research.”)


Week of September 13:  Schelling, Thomas C. 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior


Week of September 20: Morton, Rebecca B. 1999. Methods and Models, Chapters 1-3


Week of September 27: Green, Donald P., and Ian Shapiro. 1994. Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory, chapters 1-4, 8.


Week of October 4: Friedman, Jeffrey (ed.) 1996. The Rational Choice Controversy, selected articles.


Week of October 11: King, Keohane and Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry, entire book


Week of October 18: Campbell, Donald T., and Julian C. Stanley. 1963. Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research.


Week of October 25: Ostrom, Elinor, James Walker and Roy Gardner. 1992. “Covenants With and Without a Sword: Self-Governance is Possible.” American Political Science Review 86(2): 404-417.


Week of November 1: Collier, David. 1993. “The Comparative Method.” In Ada W. Finifter, ed. Political Science: The State of the Discipline II.


Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons, Chapter 5


Week of November 8: Ragin, Charles C. 1987. The Comparative Method, entire book


Week of November 15: Geertz, Clifford. 1973. “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Side.” In The Interpretation of Cultures, pp. 3-30.


Week of November 22: None


Week of November 29: King, Gary. 1989. Unifying Political Methodology, Chapters 1-2.


Academic Integrity


Cheating, plagiarism and other violations of academic integrity standardswill not be tolerated.  Any work turned in that is in violation of these standards will automatically receive a grade of zero and the matter will be referred to the Academic Integrity Board.


For your reference, the university defines academic misconduct in the following ways:


All forms of academic dishonesty including cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation, and obstruction are violations of academic integrity standards. Cheating includes copying from another’s work, falsifying problem solutions or laboratory reports, or using unauthorized sources, notes or computer programs. Plagiarism includes the presentation, without proper attribution, of another’s words or ideas from printed or electronic sources. It is also plagiarism to submit, without the instructor’s consent, an assignment in one class previously submitted in another. Misrepresentation includes forgery of official academic documents, the presentation of altered or falsified documents or testimony to a university office or official, taking an exam for another student, or lying about personal circumstances to postpone tests or assignments. Obstruction occurs when a student engages in unreasonable conduct that interferes with another’s ability to conduct scholarly activity. Destroying a student’s computer file, stealing a student’s notebook, and stealing a book on reserve in the library are examples of obstruction. (Case Academic Integrity Board)



Required Texts and Reading Assignments


POSC 349 and 449:


Becker, Howard S. 1986. Writing for Social Scientists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Johnson, Janet B., Richard A. Joslyn and H.T. Reynolds. 2004. Political Science Research Methods. 5th edition.Washington, DC: CQ Press.


Shively, W. Phillips. 2001. The Craft of Political Research. 5th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.



POSC 449 only:


Campbell, Donald T., and Julian C. Stanley. 1963. Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research. Boston: Houghlin-Mifflin.


King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Ragin, Charles C. 1987. The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Berkeley,CA: University of California Press.


Schelling, Thomas C. 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. New York: W.W. Norton.


 Additional reading assignments will be placed on reserve.

Course Outline


Monday, August 23 — Course introduction


Wednesday, August 25 — Getting started writing


Bolker, Joan. 1998. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. New York: Holt, Chapter 3


Friday, August 27 — Is political science a “science”?  What do political scientists do? What comprises political science as a discipline?


            JJR, Chapter 2

            Shively, Chapter 1


 Monday, August  30 — Elements of a political science research project


            Shively, Chapter 2


Wednesday, September 1 — What is a research puzzle?


            Shively, Chapter 10


            Zinnes, Dina 1980. “Three Puzzles in Search of a Researcher: Presidential Address.” International Studies Quarterly 24(3): 315-342.


            JJR pp. 45-48


Friday, September 3 — No class


Monday, September 6 — Labor Day, no class


Wednesday, September 8 — Models and model-building


            Lave, Charles G., and James G. March. 1975. An Introduction to Models in the Social Sciences. New York: Harper and Row.  Chapter 2


Friday, September 10 — Concepts, variables and using diagrams and pictures to visualize models


            JJR, Chapter 3


Monday, September 13 — Deriving empirical implications: hypotheses


            JJR Chapter 3


Wednesday, September 15 — Reliability and validity


            Shively, Chapter 4

            JJR, pp. 81-92


Friday, September 17 — Draft research question due in class for discussion


Monday, September 20 — Precision


            Shively, Chapter 5

            JJR, pp. 92-95


Wednesday, September 22 — Purposes to reviewing the literature. 


            JJR, pp. 154-158


Friday, September 24 — How to read a journal article. Research question due at 5:00 p.m.


Monday, September 27 — How do you do a literature review?


            JJR 159-180


Wednesday, September 29 — When to stop reviewing the literature and start writing. Writing notebook due in class today.


            Becker, Chapter 8


Friday, October 1 — How and why do researchers write?


            Becker, Chapter 1


Monday, October 4 — Writing without fear


            Becker, Chapter 3


Wednesday, October 6 — Editing


            Becker, Chapter 4


Friday, October 8 — Unidimensional thinking


            Shively, Chapter 3


Monday, October 11 — Inference: the heart of research


            King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton, NJ: PrincetonUniversity Press, pp. 46-49, 55-63


Wednesday, October 13 — Review day


Friday, October 15 — Midterm Exam


Monday, October 18 — Fall Break, No class


Wednesday, October 20 — Causality and causal inference


            Shively, Chapter 6


Friday, October 22 — Internal and External validity


            JJR, pp. 111-118


Monday, October 25 — Common dangers in research design: indeterminacy and selection bias


            King, Keohane and Verba  pp. 115-139


Wednesday, October 27 — Experimental research design


            JJR pp. 118-133


            McGraw, Kathleen. 1996 “Political Methodology: Experimental Methods.” In R. Goodin and H.D. Klingeman eds., A New Handbook of Political Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.


Friday, October 29 — Experiments in political science. Writing notebook due in class today.


            McGraw 1996


Monday, November 1 — Nonexperimental research designs


            JJR: 133-148


Wednesday, November 3 — The case study debate


            Gerring, John 2004. “What is a Case Study and What Is It Good for?  American Political Science Review, 98(2): 341-354.


            King, Keohane and Verba, pp. 208-213


Friday, November 5 — The comparative method


            Lijphart, Arend.  1971 “Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method.” American Political Science Review65: 682-693.



Monday, November 8 — Case-oriented comparative methods


            Ragin, Charles C. 1987. The Comparative Method. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, chapter 3


Wednesday, November 10 — “Variable-oriented” comparative methods


            Ragin, Chapter 4


Friday, November 12 — Survey research and design; Draft of research design due in-class


            JJR, Chapter 10


Monday, November 15 — Survey design


            JJR Chapter 10


Wednesday, November 17 — National Election Study


            NES Codebook


Friday, November 19 — Participant observation


            Fenno, Richard.  1978  “Appendix — Notes on Method: Participant Observation.” In Home Style: House Members in Their Districts, 249-55, 256, 274-295. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.


Monday, November 22 — Analysis paper due in-class; in-class discussion of designs

Wednesday, November 24 — No class


Friday, November 26 — Thanksgiving Break, no class


Monday, November 29 — Statistical inference. Writing notebook due in class today.


            Shively, Chapter 9


Wednesday, December 1 — Statistical inference


            Campbell, Donald T.,  and H. Laurence Ross. 1968 “The Connecticut Crackdown on Speeding.” Law and Society: 33-53.


Friday, December 3 —Research ethics and human subjects. Research design due at 5:00 p.m. today.


            Case IRB Guidebook

            Milgram, Stanley.  1975  Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. Appendix to Chapter 2.


Monday, December 6 — Review Day


Wednesday, December 15 — Final Exam (12:30 – 3:30 p.m.)



I reserve the right to make revisions to this syllabus if we get behind or if we get ahead at times.  I will announce any such changes in class or over the class e-mail list.